Home for Christmas
I’m home in Carmel, Indiana for Christmas. I said my long goodbye a few years ago, but every time I return, the town seems more lovely. The environment is impeccable; the parents are involved; the opportunities are many; the traffic is convenient; the churches are lively. I had to live in other places to realize what was special about this one. Since I’m called to do international work, I’ll ironically be restricted to living in big and connected capital cities for the near future, but a couple weeks of Hoosierdom a year is refreshing.
And I’m refreshing for Hoosiers, rather than confusing…I hope. Taiwanese people thought I acted Japanese, and Americans think I act like I’m from…somewhere else. People in my own hometown ask me, “Where are you from?” I say “Here!” and they say “Really? Why do you have an accent?” A few add, “You speak very beautiful English!” and I say, “Thank you very much!”
Sometimes, I need to get someone’s attention, but I don’t want to impose…so instead of going right up to him, I’ll shuffle over at a 45 degree angle and duck apologetically. I bow to acknowledge someone from far away and for the Sign of Peace at Mass. Instead of calling “Excuse me” to a waitress, I’ll raise my hand. It feels strange to say “you” to strangers because that would be too familiar in Japanese, so I’ll say “I’m sorry, I still don’t know your name” and then try to use their names a lot or say “sir” and “ma’am.” I want to honk to say “thank you” to other drivers, but I’m worried they’ll get the wrong idea. I can’t eat as much as I used to, but the phrase “doggie bag” doesn’t seem clean anymore! Can’t we all agree to call it mochikaeri? That makes me feel better about not finishing my dinner.
I hope my friends abroad have good Christmases. It would be nice if my Spanish host family won the annual Christmas Lottery. In Japan and Taiwan, the shops may have decorations and music going, but Christmas is a date holiday and New Year’s is a family holiday, precisely the opposite of the West. Maybe my Japanese friends will enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner of Kentucky Fried Chicken with their special someones. Some of my students will make Christmas cakes with their families. Taiwan waits for Chinese New Year to go all-out, but I’ll be back in time for the 288-second, $2 million fireworks show at Taipei 101 to celebrate the 100th year of the Republic of China at 0:00:00, 01/01/11.
I’m always separated from someone. I feel like I have one chance to get everyone I love together: my wedding, some time in the far future. Until then, I’ll quietly think of people a couple times a day and try to lift them up. I’m grateful to be in touch with my family this week.
I woke up on the Winter Solstice to the moon shining in my eyes like a spotlight. Daybreak and religious observances came soon after, and from here the daylight gets longer. It’s Christmas, and new life has come. May the Lord bless you and keep you.